HACE: Helping Latinos Succeed In The Workplace

Hispanic Community November 2020 PREMIUM
“I was discouraged from applying to top colleges. I didn’t have people in my life to tell me otherwise,”

Sally Delgado had attended many conferences, webinars and workshops during her career, but none was more impressive and impactful than that of the Hispanic Alliance for Career Enhancement (HACE), a national non-profit dedicated to the employment, development and advancement of current and aspiring Latino professionals. As director of development of alumni relations at Morton College in Illinois, she partook in the Mujeres de HACE program and became a bolder leader and a greater example for students of what a Latina is capable of being.

“The students are the ones who benefit from someone like me who is exploding with excitement and resources to share with them,” said Delgado, who represents Hispanic initiatives at her Hispanic-Serving Institution. “I want to be in my latinidad everyday for my career and to help other students do the same. We need more Latina leaders and more Latinos in higher education.”

Mujeres De Hace

Delgado, who grew up in New York and Chicago to Puerto Rican parents, went into the Mujeres de HACE program in order to develop her skills and knowledge professionally. But she received so much more. Through in-depth personal assessments, branding, one-on-one coaching and support on how to strengthen her weaknesses and expand upon their strengths, she discovered who she could truly be as a Latina leader.  She became aware that, in having assimilated into the U.S. culture, her latinidad had been lost and that she needed to bring that part of her back into her work life.

Delgado is one of many success stories that have come out of HACE. In the Mujeres de HACE program alone, 1,500 Latinas in ten cities are currently alumnae to the program. Seventy percent of them reported a promotion, and 70% a salary increase within twelve months of completing the program; 80% now serve on non-profit boards or volunteer after having completed the program.  One hundred percent recommend the program.

 Mujeres de HACE is only one of multiple programs at HACE. The organization also provides the Emerging Latino Leaders Program, designed to transform high-potential Latino professionals into high-performing leaders; the University Leadership Academy created for college students to give them access to a network of employers, professionals, and professional development opportunities; and El Futuro, a career preparation and development program for high school students to better prepare them to be successful in college and beyond. 

University Leadership Network

The programs designed for youth, including the University Leadership Network and El Futuro are temporarily on hold this year (HACE had already planned to take a break this upcoming school year to revamp these programs, and create a stronger digital platform…ironically, it’s now needed, more than ever, due to the pandemic). But the University Leadership Network’s University Night, an annual recruitment program, did take place virtually, for the first time. Uniquely, students from across the country, but mostly from the Chicago area, learned from six companies and interacted in private chat rooms with recruiters to discuss internships.

 HACE’s mission, from its very inception, has been to address the need for Latinos to succeed in the workplace, and for companies to find talented Latinos to work for them. The organization set out to connect Latino students with professionals and companies in order to help “cultivate the pipeline of Latino talent,” explained Patricia Mota, HACE president and CEO.  

 Back then, HACE became known for its career fairs, where 60 to 70 companies and thousands of students and professional job seekers would attend. Employers received a big book of resumes and hired HACE members in various roles.  Today, this career fair is only one part of many arms of HACE, which has become a premiere leadership organization for advancing Latinx, through its programs and employer resource groups strategies. 

Although on hold for this year, the University Leadership Network offers students access to a large network of employer partners and professional members by providing insight, access and professional development opportunities that support their collegiate leadership and success. Initiatives in the past included a summer program called the University Leadership Academy, special career development webinars for college students, an internship speed networking night and in some cities local student leadership chapters.   

Most years, the University Leadership Academy selects 25 of the best students in Chicago and offers 12 sessions over six Saturdays during which they build on soft skills and leadership strengths. Toward the end of the program, students are connected with employers to discuss internships for the following year.  

El Futuro

Another youth-based program that is on hold this year, El Futuro, is a career development program for high school students meant to help them achieve better college entrance and completion rates by improving their prospects for fulfilling careers. Through the program, students gain a better understanding of their options beyond high school, including higher education and the workplace. The program focuses on helping students improve their interviewing and networking skills, build professional employment networks, and learn how to effectively approach potential employers and universities. 

Typically, el Futuro consists of small cohorts of 20 to 30 high school students who meet during class time and are supervised by teachers or are sent to a regional career conference (focused on STEM) to learn about jobs, connect with mentors and recruiters, and choose career paths through experiential activities.  In cities like Chicago, Houston and New York, HACE has engaged local corporate partners to provide presentations, skill-building sessions, site visits, job shadowing, coaching and internship opportunities for these students.   

“Being in El Futuro has given me an opportunity to become a better person. It has not only helped me but guided me to amazing experiences. New skills that will help me, not only with college, but with my lifestyle as well. Every meeting has given me a chance to do better,” said Michelle F., El Futuro Houston Student.  El Futuro has become a major part of my everyday life, from learning how to network to managing my life goals.”  

 Leadership Program

When HACE opened its doors in Chicago in 1982, it did so because companies were having difficulty finding Latinos to work for their companies. And so, it’s understandable that another key component of HACE would be the Leadership Program for emerging Latino leaders, a program designed to transform high-potential Latino professionals into high-performing leaders.  

This program, which has worked with about 600 Latinos so far, helps them become more effective managers in their workplace. Although this year the Leadership Program is available online across the country, in the past, a different city hosted a cohort of Latinos in a business setting (often job sites would pay for someone’s training). During a 10-week-time-period, participants learn to improve their leadership skills, which leads to higher pay and advances, and a greater capacity to give back to their community.

“One of the things with Latinos, is that when you look at their traditional values and the workplace values, there is a clash. It’s the collectivism versus individualism. We respect authority. We won’t challenge authority. We don’t speak unless spoken to,” said Mota, HACE president and CEO. “Through this program, we create awareness of our values, leadership traits and capabilities. We talk about how we come from a community of humility, respect and being uncomfortable with tooting our own horn. Yet, we help Latinos get comfortable with tooting their own horn and have real conversations that help catapult their careers. It’s understanding when you need to adapt to be effective.”

One person who learned through HACE that becoming more assertive and outspoken in the workplace was key is Melanie Flores, director of HSI programs of National Louis University in Chicago. She sought out professional development support through HACE in 2017 and ended up partaking in its Mujeres de HACE program.

“It was life changing. It was more than I expected. I was seeking a traditional development program, but it was about developing me professionally, personally, in leadership,” said Flores, who is now on the program’s Chicago alumni board and board chair of the Chicago branch. “I went in hoping to learn more about being a leader in general, and I came out almost like a completely different person. I had to break through stereotypes. It lit a fire under me to make sure I was at the table and my voice was valued. My confidence level went through the roof. I felt more confidence to speak up for myself and negotiate my worth. I’ve had several salary increases and have really become someone in my field who is sought out in program development for underrepresented youth.”

Like so many Latinos, and especially Latinas, Flores had learned to stay in the background and not speak up unless necessary. But now, as her school became an HSI, she’s focused her new confidence on creating programs and services that will really support the Latino population. Thanks to HACE, she can inspire other Latino students to be more than she was told she could be as a first-generation college student.

“I was discouraged from applying to top colleges. I didn’t have people in my life to tell me otherwise,” said Flores. “But HACE is helping tremendously in creating a community that can provide more support to our Black and brown students.” 

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